MACE­DO­NIA

Aquarius - - TRAVEL -

Lo­cated on the Var­dar River at the foot of Mount Vodno, Mace­do­nia’s cap­i­tal city of Skopje is an in­ter­est­ing mix of civil­i­sa­tions, cul­tures and de­sign ideas. At var­i­ous times ruled by Ot­tomans, Ro­mans, Byzan­tines and Bul­gar­i­ans, ev­i­dence of each can still be seen around the city, jostling for space with newer struc­tures re­sult­ing from the en­thu­si­as­tic gov­ern­men­tled devel­op­ment pro­gramme of re­cent years. The area around the river­side is known to be par­tic­u­larly lively these days, both in terms of its ar­chi­tec­ture and adorn­ments as well as its so­cial of­fer­ings.

For a peek into Skopje’s past, check out the Kale Fortress – fea­tur­ing ev­i­dence of a Ne­olithic set­tle­ment – and the an­cient Turk­ish hill­side area of Čaršija, still going strong along­side the 15th-cen­tury stone bridge. Its wind­ing lanes and maze of nar­row streets is where you’ll find many of the city’s most pop­u­lar tea­houses, cafés and nightspots, not to men­tion nu­mer­ous mosques and other sites of cul­tural in­ter­est.

If you’re a na­ture lover it’s well worth tak­ing the time to get out of the city and head for the hills, where you’ll find the Matka Lake in the mid­dle of the breath­tak­ing Matka Canyon. With plenty of caves to ex­plore, hills to hike and wa­ter to kayak or sail across, the canyon area also boasts a num­ber of monas­ter­ies, in­clud­ing the his­toric St Andrew’s, home to orig­i­nal fres­coes painted by Jo­van the Met­ro­pol­i­tan in the 1300s.

Skopje is full of op­tions for ac­com­mo­da­tion, from the se­ri­ously bud­get-con­scious to the lux­u­ri­ous, but it’s re­as­sur­ing to know even the higher-end choices are af­ford­able. The river­side Park Ho­tel & Spa has rooms for around Dh480 per night, in­clud­ing break­fast.

NEED TO KNOW

Skopje is just un­der six hours from Dubai, and di­rect flights start from around Dh1,565.

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